Google Docs chat window is a window into student thinking

Today my students were working on their second day of trying to figure out the theme of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin.  Yesterday they worked in groups of six to read the story and try to figure out the theme and find the evidence. Each group had a document shared in Google Docs with the story where they could highlight, make comments and write on the story itself as a group.

Today they were working on their own to write a paragraph in their English Journal in GD about the theme using the evidence their group found yesterday.  They still needed to use their shared document with the story and that shared document comes with a chat window, so that the group members could still communicate with each other even though they were no longer in a group. I was monitoring the chat windows of the six documents in play and students knew they were allowed to use this for communication and even to ask questions. Talking was prohibited.

Until this point I had not seen the chat window used this much or this richly. Student dialog within the chat window gave me great information about their thinking about the task at hand. At times I commented on their questions or reminded them to focus, but mostly I just watched their thinking evolve. It was messy, but fascinating. I captured one group's chat by copying and pasting their comments into a new doc every few minutes. I changed their names and edited just a bit for clarity, but this is mostly their raw discussion.

Notice how they answer each others questions as they navigate the task. They express confusion, frustration, provide support and answers and Don even shares his final product.

Don has opened the document.
Andee has opened the document.
Don: you guys /: you guys took like ALL the evidence & I can't find any . Help meeee pls .
Sandy has opened the document.
Mrs. R: What do you mean they took it?  You can use the same quote
Don: ohhh ok nevermind (:
Arthur: There in the middle of the paper Don
Charlene has opened the document.
Sandy: hey me ayudan?
Arthur: Mrs. Roberts what are we supposed to be doing?
Charlene: no le entiendo
Sandy: your are suppose to be writing in your english journal
Andee: yea we are
Arthur: what are we suppose to write in our English journal?
Andee has opened the document.
Don: yeah but what do we write about?  :O
Sandy: something about theme
Charlene: about the theme
Sandy: yeee
Don: of the story ?
Charlene: yeaahh
Andee: yea
Don: or on what we commented on the paper
Sandy: yeee   loook this is what i wrote   I think that the theme is that they character rather be dead than not have their independence.
Don: that's what you wrote on your english journal ?
Sandy: do you guys kind of get it now?    yeee kinda
Don: yeah somewhat . how long does our entry have to be ?
Arthur: so we just write about what the theme is?
Sandy: yeah the message of the story
Arthur: oh ok i get it now... thanks kid
Don: oh , okay . It makes sense now (: lol
Sandy: member yesterday ms roberts was talking to you Arthur and you were talking just write what you said down
Arthur: oh ok get it now
Don: I N D E P E N D E N C E (:
Charlene: how much do we write ?
Sandy: AMEN Don
Don: idknow ? -_-    @Sandy , Lmfao . alrighty .
Sandy: enough like 5 sent.
Charlene: grrrrrrrr :/   im confusedd
Sandy: hhhhaaaaaaaa  how?
Don: Tiger , lol .
Arthur: so like a paragraph?
Sandy: umm yeahh
Don: (:   yessssssssssssssssssss
Charlene: whatever floats your boat :]
Sandy: Don do your work     haha stephy nd i say that
Arthur: all of you do yur work!
Sandy: HA;)
Don: stephy ? whose that ? hahaaa    & im halfway done [;
Sandy: STEPHANIE menso
Don: :O I know no such person
Sandy: Charlene helpp mee!!!
Don: hahaha
Charlene: it shows she wants to be independent ?
Sandy: thanks.
Charlene: welcom :]
Sandy: HA...
Don: ha ha ha ha ha   i laugh lol
Arthur: hahaha
Charlene: time is almost up.
Don: :O stop scaring me >___<
Sandy: hahhaa  heyy how longg??
Charlene: how long what?
Arthur: like 3 mins... i think
Charlene: not even like 1   :O
Sandy: the writing   TIMES UP
Charlene: told you
Sandy: you didnt tell me anything
Arthur: do we get more time or what?
Sandy: Don what does malluga mean?
Don: okay guys this is what I wrote, hold on BRACE YOURSELVES
In the story, “Story of an Hour” has a rare theme. The theme is Independence. The lady from the story was dependent on her husband since the day they got married. But when he died she realized that she had to be strong about things and make herself become independent. She felt free at last now that she had realized she could have been independent a long time ago, but never could be because of her husband. The author also stated that the character would rather be dead than to not be independent. I used this quote tho support my evidence, “She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.”
woah lol
Charlene: sounds like an A+ to me
Sandy: its good
Don: : :D do you like it Ms. Roberts ? (:
Arthur: no she doesn't
Sandy: hahaha she put you on hold
Don: yeah she does , DAM you guys are haters .  haha .
Charlene: haha :D
Arthur: hahahahaha
Sandy has left.
Don: bye .
Don has left.
Arthur has left.
Charlene has left.
Andee has left.

Of course this is just a beginning. They have a long way to come with their discussion skills, but the interaction is authentic, academic and supportive. It's been a good day. I would be interested in your thoughts.